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Worth Reading: 06/29/2012

Did you know Spelunky for Xbox Live Arcade is actually a remake? Start your weekend with games you've missed, stories you should read, and much more.

I'm three hours into Eternal Darkness. This will make sense to those who have played: green.
I'm three hours into Eternal Darkness. This will make sense to those who have played: green.

I’m becoming a broken record at this point, but that Amnesia: The Dark Descent follow-up is coming. I had a very real intention of writing it yesterday, and then a day full of Quick Looks happened. There’s merit to the argument about giving thoughts time to breathe, but I may jump back into the game (I haven’t touched the downloadable add-on, Justine) to remind myself of the terror.

The Penumbra games are also giving me a curious look from my hard drive (the Internet suggests skipping the first game, we'll see), but Eternal Darkness has my attention right now, and, yes, I’ve heard your demands to do something with my playthrough of it.

Jeff and the rest of the Internet have given me some pause about Spec Ops: The Line, a game I was totally ready to write off, but one that apparently does enough interesting things with its story to be worth checking out this weekend. I’d like to do nothing more than play Eternal Darkness on Saturday afternoon, but these types of games have to be played in the dark with headphones, no? Spec Ops: The Line seems like the perfect candidate for an interesting idea another developer will execute on later, which appears to be the curious relationship between I Am Alive and The Last of Us.

So much for it being a slow period for games. I'm buried! Turns out you just have to look around.

You Should Play This

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Prepare for an avalanche of discussion about Spelunky. We may have the summer’s critical favorite arriving on July 4 for Xbox Live Arcade. You can play Spelunky right now, though, if you head to the game’s website. Developer Mossmouth has been tweaking the Spelunky formula that previously addicted so many for years now, and the fruits of that labor will be available soon. If you’d like a hint of what’s to come, the latest case of a developer kicking you in the balls until you learn to look before you leap, make sure to download Spelunky. Best part? It doesn’t cost a thing!

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Thomas Was Alone, which we featured in a Quick Look earlier today, is a great example of the interesting ideas that can spring forth from the design minimalism forced within a game jam. Once that developer realized it were onto a good thing, it fleshed it out. I’m hopeful Flip’d will have the same opportunity, as the basic ideas being explored have enormous potential. In the most basic terms, Flip’d is a first-person puzzle platformer where the player has control over swapping gravity. It’s more or less a first-person VVVVVV, which is easily one of my favorite modern platformers. VVVVVV was stupid hard in a great way, and Flip’d quickly heads in the very same direction.

And Maybe Read These

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(That headline is made up, by the way--Pruett didn't write one.) Pruett is one of the most meticulous and dedicated critics of the horror genre. We spent the better part of an hour dissecting our love-and-hate relationship with the genre at a party earlier in the year, which gave me another idea that we’ll have to reivist in October. In his dissection of Silent Hill: Downpour, Pruett does a wonderful job of identifying the specific design reasons Downpour doesn’t work. It’s more than the combat being broken or a nonsense story. Pruett goes way, way, way deep, and ensures I'll never have to write my own thoughts about Downpour down, since Pruett took all the words out of my mouth.

This is Downpour's Big Idea: it is the first Silent Hill game to feature a large, open world for its town. Most other Silent Hill games have featured large outdoor areas, but they've never been really open; they've always been walled off at the edges so that the player is lead along a very specific path. The open world is a significant deviation from the series norm, and it is the core problem with the game's design.

We've reached the trunk of the design, the root of the game's decision tree. From here we can see other branches leading to other problems caused by the decision to employ an open world. Let's follow one down.

I believe that what the developers at Vatra wanted was to make the entire town of Silent Hill a large recursive unlocking space, where the player would criss-cross the map many times, collecting items and solving puzzles on the way, all while progressively widening the available space. Much like the Resident Evil mansion, you might need an item from one side of town to solve a puzzle on the other side of town. Only, the space is much, much larger than the compact Umbrella stronghold. Though you have a map, borders of the space must be traced manually because there are blockades and abysses in the way, not to mention back alleys and side-street shortcuts.
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My favorite pieces of writing are the ones where I’m humbled as a reporter. Russ Pitts completely knocked it out of the park with this article for Polygon, in which he chronicles the path to this fall’s Dishonored. Too often, this part of the story is relegated to a paragraph or a quote, while Pitts spends thousands of words taking us from the origins of System Shock to modern day. This is the kind of story that makes me sit back, think, and know I need to step up my own game. It’s quite a tale, and makes me all the more anxious for Dishonored--it was absolutely my favorite at E3.

"I literally said it was a slap in the face to Ultima fans and RPG fans," Harvey said. "And I sent it to my boss. I don't know why I did it, but it was the kind of thing I did back then."

Where the list goes after that is anyone's guess, but it eventually comes to the attention of Richard Garriott himself. Also known as Lord British. Also known as the co-founder of Origin and the creator of Ultima. Garriott stops by Smith's work area, sits down on his desk, and asks him about the list.

"He was super gracious," Smith said. "He was like: 'This is very insightful and I regret that we didn't do these [things]. We disappointed people.'"

If You Click, It Will Play

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Avatar image for monkfishbandana
Posted By monkfishbandana

Damn, I wish I could actually play a horror game for more than a few seconds before screaming like a baby and leaping for the reset button.

Avatar image for joey_ravn
Posted By JoeyRavn

Wait. The Internet is telling you to skip the first Penumbra? Fuck the Internet. The first two, Overture and Black Plague, are the best. The third one is OK, but a massive change in format. But, seriously, don't skip the first one.

Avatar image for tpoppapuff
Edited By TPoppaPuff


Absolutely agreed. Eidos is absolutely right; it has become insanely overblown and is tarnishing the game and the studios reputation simply because gaming "journalists" are simply trying to get page counts rather than offer legitimate news or editorials. It's pathetic and made all the more horrible due to the overwhelming amount of hypocrisy given how often these same tactics are held against the "mainstream" media you see on TV.  
"My message to the developer and publisher would be to not tackle subjects you’re afraid to defend." Truth be told, they didn't ever want to defend the subject matter or tackle the subject matter at all. Nor did they ever want to even pretend like they were progressive in storytelling or subject matter in games. They're simply telling an origin story of a character and as already pointed out by the devs, we've seen 100% of the rape scene that 'transforms her into the hero we know today' (to paraphrase). But guess what? The three seconds of rapey-ness in that scene is not what transformed her; it was the far longer sequence where she struggles for her life and kills the dude. The damn-developers have said so themselves on repeat. I'm pretty sure you can see that video here on this very site. The rape-stravaganza is nothing, has zero impact on the story or character or the rest of the game.  
By the way, it's not even "rape" in that scene anyways; it's sexual assault. So yeah, Tomb Raider is 100% rape free, which unfortunately can't be said about the relationship between the view-count hungry media and Eidos. Even at E3, no less! Anything for a good story though, right? Truth be damned. So where was the media backlash against Epic for Gears of War 3 for not delving deeper into the psyche of Marcus after committing genocide on an entire race of beings? What? That wouldn't have created a large enough thread count or got enough views? Exactly.

Avatar image for eliahm1
Posted By eliahm1

pervert juno500

Avatar image for majkiboy
Posted By Majkiboy

I put too many hours into Spelunky. And I am ready for some more!

Avatar image for terabyter9000
Posted By terabyter9000

I don't know what the hell I just read but interesting article.

Avatar image for vargasprime
Posted By VargasPrime

Patrick Klepek This is way late, but if you skip any Penumbra games, skip the third, NOT the first. The third game is more disconnected from the first two chapters, since the plan for the series to be an actual trilogy had been scrapped because of publisher problems, but then later they wound up releasing "Requiem" as an expansion. It has some story hooks that tie in nicely with the previous games, but it does away with a lot of the scariness that the first two games had. It focuses a lot more on puzzles and less on horror/story.

The only knock against the first chapter is that there was combat (or possible combat anyway). It's awkward and completely unnecessary, and you can play the game just fine running away from things or hiding.

At any rate, each game can be completed in around 5 hours or so, so it's really worth playing through all of them.

Avatar image for dropabombonit
Posted By dropabombonit

Don't know why I'm only reading this now but great picks again Tricky

Avatar image for d
Edited By D

Was EVO this weekend? I will have to check..... My bad next weekend.

Avatar image for crysack
Posted By Crysack

I'm beginning to wonder whether the 'industry' (so to speak) is becoming a little too obsessed with stamping out anything that could even be considered mildly sexist - not that I believe the new Tomb Raider can be considered as such at all. If nothing else, the whole twitter controversy this week over Felicia Day, the sheer number of people who descended on Ryan Perez after his ill-thought-out comments with accusations of misogyny as well as the speed with which Destructoid jettisoned any responsibility for Perez' comments indicate that some of these witch-hunts are going far further than they reasonably should.

Avatar image for rockslacasa
Posted By rockslacasa

Go here for a version of Spelunky for mac:

Thanks to Mossmouth forum user Leon

Avatar image for noelveiga
Edited By NoelVeiga

@Mercer said:

@iAmJohn said:

@Juno500 said:

Watch out for the bathtub scene in Eternal Darkness Patrick.

Dude, fuuuuuuuck that scene.

that was the scene that made me promise myself to never let my sanity meter drop below 3/4 of the way lol

I know I'm in the minority here, but Eternal Darkness never did it for me. If anything, most of the "insanity" stuff broke immersion instead of creating it. After the first couple of times you just stop falling for it, and the goofier gags are a bit too humorous.

It's a shame, too, because storytelling-wise, the game was actually doing some other clever stuff. With the gimmicks and the bad combat getting in the way I never got to enjoy the plot as much as I could have.

Avatar image for noelveiga
Posted By NoelVeiga

I've been wanting to say somethig about the Tomb Raider thing since it started and I think Patrick's line here has pushed me over the edge.

It's been massively overblown.

Really, though. Massively. It's not even the sequence, which includes levels of rapey-ness you can see in daytime soaps. It all comes from this one developer during E3 blurting out that you're supposed to get all defensive and protective of Lara because she's hurt, where presumably the female-written and equally beaten-up Nate Drake is an identifiable figure, not a victim.

But if you look at it without the statement... well, then there's no difference. At one point Drake ends up curled up in Elena's lap while she comforts him. He gets drugged, shot, stabbed, beaten up and almost dies of thirst. Having a guy get all grabby before Lara snaps and fights back is perfectly in character. Depending on how it plays in the actual game, it's even empowering. It's context, not content, that is causing the anger here.

And then the anger was taken by some and ran with to ridiculous extremes. The Escapist had a piece where an actual rape victim related her trauma. I was shocked by how exploitative that was. This woman went through PTSD and she was blurting it out anonimously on a gaming site based on this non-starter of a story. I can only imagine a number of war veterans were wondering where their interviews will go when the next Call of Duty comes out.

Ultimately, Patrick is right on the money. Crystal Dynamics are in the right on this one, and they could have pushed back and proved it.

But to be fair with them, they had to backtrack because... well, picture in your head this issue reaching the mainstream press and being flattened from the overload of thoughtful articles into a thirty second piece. There's no way it could have ended well for them. It's a shame that the lynch mob was formed before anybody questioned what the actual situation of the studio was, and it's a shame that nobody in the press had the balls to be the voice of reason and go "hey, guys, maybe there's a difference between this sequence and the actually harmful institutionalized sexism that is so pervasive in the industry, including the original Tomb Raider games".

Avatar image for line99
Posted By line99

Spelunky is nice game you should TRY IT !

Avatar image for y2ken
Posted By Y2Ken

Gave that Flip'd a go - good fun although pretty tough right now, hopefully the concept will be developed into something a little more puzzle-y and less complex platformer. Halfway through Arkane article which I'm really enjoying. A great read.

Avatar image for hace
Posted By Hace

Just in case someone somewhere is making executive decisions based on how many "positive" or "negative" comments features on Giant Bomb get, I'd just like to add my positive one to these Worth Reading features. Just got some coffee and food's on the way so these articles are a great way of spending the afternoon!

Avatar image for happymeowmeow
Edited By happymeowmeow

Patrick you weren't exaggerating about that Russ Pitts article, was an incredible read. Reminded me of the TV show Icons that G4 used to produce.

Article inspired me to wiki Ultima Underworld. Looking Glass wanted to make a third game but Origin rejected their pitches? ... Damn you, Origin execs in the mid 90's.

Avatar image for gonzosnot
Posted By GonzoSnot

Spelunky is a wonderful game, and I implore everyone to play it.

It's pretty much a roguelike platformer, with wonderful shiny loot to collect, including gold, gems, and Raiders of the Lost Ark style idols. Tough, but excellent.

Avatar image for patrickklepek
Posted By patrickklepek

@Dezztroy said:

You shouldn't skip the first Penumbra. While it does have some terrible combat, it's still a great horror experience and you'll be lost in the second game if you skip it.

Will do. :)

Avatar image for moncole
Posted By Moncole
Avatar image for supertyson
Posted By SuperTyson

Patrick bringing the hot scoops action

Avatar image for bonzopongo
Posted By BonzoPongo

Downloaded spelunky and ended up playing it all afternoon. Can not believe that is free, it looks good, has great music, amazing, brutal game.

Avatar image for fox01313
Posted By fox01313

Will definitely look at Spelunky on pc as it looks interesting & looking forward to some of the horror game related articles (or collection of thoughts) that Patrick has in mind.

@Hellfire2122: Eternal Darkness is one of the better horror games that came out with the Gamecube, will run on the Wii if you have that but sadly needing a HD remake on other consoles/pc.

Avatar image for kdr_11k
Posted By KDR_11k

Eurogamer had a really good interview with Edmund McMillen which explains his reasoning behind Binding of Isaac.

Avatar image for razputin
Posted By Razputin

I can't wait for your Amnesia article, Patrick!

Avatar image for hellfire2122
Posted By Hellfire2122

Eternal darkness? I assume I'll get stabbed for this, but I've never heard of the game.

Avatar image for rramo010
Posted By rramo010

That Dwarf Fortress article is a great read. I kinda want to give the game another go, even though I already deleted it off my pc because of pure frustration.

Avatar image for mercer
Posted By Mercer

Also RECEIVER IS AWSOOOOMMMEE   love that gun play, thanks for making me aware of that Patrick!

Avatar image for cybexx
Posted By Cybexx

Used to play a bunch of Spelunky, the original is really great, some of the best procedural level generation I've ever seen.

I also like how Flip'd actually has the VVVVV sprite in it, sometimes wearing your inspirations on your sleeve is the best policy.

Avatar image for otzlowe
Posted By Otzlowe

I'd agree with you on your comment about companies being willing to defend their stances, but sometimes I kind of feel like it's impossible for them to do so, even when it's defensible.

Anything they say in defense of a subject like rape in their video game is just going to be painted in a worse light. I don't really blame them for staying quiet, saying, "Wow, guys." and then moving on.

Avatar image for xeirus
Posted By Xeirus

@Gordo789: to each their own, I feel the complaints are understood, but at the same time just soo tired of hearing it. It's not going to change.

The only thing I completely agree with is the offline mode, hardcore is unplayable IMO without it, but at the same time I understand why they didn't include it.

Just have to accept the thing you cannot change and move on IMO.

Avatar image for portis
Posted By Portis

Sooooooooo pumped for Spelunky. Played a ton of the freeware version and I can't wait for this XBLA version. My body is ready!

Avatar image for mercer
Posted By Mercer

@iAmJohn said:

@Juno500 said:

Watch out for the bathtub scene in Eternal Darkness Patrick.

Dude, fuuuuuuuck that scene.

that was the scene that made me promise myself to never let my sanity meter drop below 3/4 of the way lol

Avatar image for superfunhappygun
Posted By superfunhappygun
@patrickklepek I have to say though, Eternal Darkness peaks somewhere in the middle and by the end of it, it just isn't fun anymore. At least that was the case for me. The time periods are really cool but revisiting the same locations gets tiresome very quickly.
In regards to Penumbra, I agree that the first one isn't a whole lot of fun but it still does some neat things. The second one is easily the best but, as others have said, you'll get kind of lost in the mix if you don't play the first one first.
Thanks for the write-up! Will check Spelunky and some of the articles.
Avatar image for dezztroy
Posted By Dezztroy

You shouldn't skip the first Penumbra. While it does have some terrible combat, it's still a great horror experience and you'll be lost in the second game if you skip it.

Avatar image for gordo789
Posted By Gordo789

@Xeirus: fair enough. I do have a lot of issues with the game, you can read about them here if you like. I admit that it's fun, but I think they made a few huge missteps when making this game, many of them related to the auction houses but also some of them having to do with the skill selections. I have not played the game to level 60 yet with any class but honestly I don't want to, and something you said kind of encapsulates the reason why. You mentioned that if youre not using the auction house it's basically diablo II, well that's great because I loved Diablo II. Diablo II was, however, like 12 goddamned years ago and is also a game I already own! So you'd think that in all this time they could make a game that was much much better than diablo II if they were planning on charing money for it. Instead, they made a game that's basically diablo II if you don't use one of its core features.

Anyway, I think that what the author of that article was getting at was how shameful and directly opposed to the spirit of Diablo II (which was a GREAT game) the implementation of the auction house is. It's great that people can still enjoy diablo III in spite of that, but the reality is that the game suffers for many people because of it.

Lastly, I want to say that I really really wish they had included an offline mode in Diablo III, so that people could play hardcore mode (which offers a defined risk to using the auction house) without fear of dying to a bullshit internet connection either on their end or on the server end. I live in a rural area and have crappy internet, so this is not an option for me, which sucks. I don't see why Blizz should be exempt from scrutiny on this crap, it's bullshit.

All of that said, it's a perfectly well made if not kind of just alright game. I'm not passing any kind of judgement on people who enjoy it or anything. I enjoy it even. I think it's fun, but there are definitely some serious goddamned problems with the model they've set up. They could've made a better game but instead they chose not to so that they can implement their bullshit.

Avatar image for xeirus
Posted By Xeirus

@Gordo789: They sold you a diablo game, with plenty to do. I assume you're an adult and you choose to do what you want.

I don't avoid to auction house, because honestly I don't see a problem with it. I just don't care enough to spend my time or gold buy 1mill+ items. I play the rat race in real life, I think I can manage to play and get items on my own.

I have bought stuff from it, sure, but not near enough to think it's somehow ruined my overall experience. If the auction single-handedly ruined the game for you then I feel you have bigger issues with the game and that's a whole different conversation.

Avatar image for gordo789
Posted By Gordo789

@Xeirus: Hehe buddy, more power to you then. I agree, nobody is forcing anyone to do anything, but consider the auction house in the context of what diablo really is. The basic driving mechanic of diablo is to click on badguys and get loot right? So what happens when you make all of that loot completely goddamned meaningless by implementing this auction house? I can loot so many useless magic items and either vendor them for trash or use them to craft more trash. Alternatively, there is a vast sea of much better loot that exists outside of what the game is really all about. Why don't I just circumvent the game and get that loot instead? I suppose I could play this side game that you and many others are playing that involves not using any auction house (gold or RMAH), but why isn't that the game that they sold us?

Avatar image for prestonhedges
Posted By prestonhedges
Prepare for an avalanche of discussion about Spelunky.


Avatar image for xeirus
Posted By Xeirus

@Gordo789: Dude, if you just DONT use the auction house it's basically diablo 2, the game is piss poor easy, you dont need it.

Saying you're forced to use it is bullshit and a copout and I have played the game plenty enough to know everyone is full of shit. They aren't forced to use it, but they can't stop themselves. Everyone wants something to complain about.

It's basically a single player game, an OPTIONAL part of it does not ruin your single player game, that's complete foolishness. I have used the auction house as little as you could possibly use it and I have made it to inferno by only playing with friends. I don't buy anyones pity party crap.

Avatar image for gordo789
Posted By Gordo789

@Xeirus said:

The guy that wrote that Diablo 3 article is a dumbass.

Just like every other game, you are not forced to use the auction house, ever. Complaining about them taking a cut from your transactions is like bitching about using ebay, if it pisses you off don't use it..... the crying is rather pathetic.

Xeirus, you're right, nobody is forcing anybody to use the RMAH. However, even the existence of the gold auction house straight up ruins Diablo III, and it didn't really need to try very hard either (it's not a very good game!). Not using the gold auction house to buy better items in that game is like playing with a blind fold on or using your feet to work the mouse and keyboard. Nobody is FORCING you to play with your eyes open or with your hands, but you can and so you do.

Avatar image for threepi
Posted By ThreePi

Good to see he plans on doing something for Eternal Darkness. Fantastic game, but it is memorable for me as the first game that I ruined for myself before playing. It was 2002, I was 15 and that was an era when IGN and Gamespot were exploding in popularity and I couldn't get enough coverage of that game. Still enjoyed the hell out of it.

Avatar image for saturdaynightspecials
Posted By SaturdayNightSpecials

I think you confused the third game with the first. Anyone telling you to skip Overture is retarded.

Just know that the game has combat, but it's about as useful as your own fighting skills would be in real life. You want to use stealth, not pick fights.

Avatar image for yoshimitz707
Posted By yoshimitz707

@patrickklepek: You have a typo in your second paragraph. "the Internet suggets skipping the first game"

Avatar image for bbalpert
Posted By BBAlpert

@thebigJ_A said:

DON'T skip the first Penumbra!!

WTF. Where one Earth did you get that tripe?? Aside from the fact that the second will have no context and make no sense, the first is great! It's the third you can skip. 'Cause it's not really story related, or scary. More of a puzzle-based experiment.

This. The first game: An atmospheric first person horror game. The second game: An atmospheric first person horror game. The third game: A collection of rudimentary physics puzzles and first person platforming.

Avatar image for thebigj_a
Edited By thebigJ_A

DON'T skip the first Penumbra!!

WTF. Where on Earth did you get that tripe?? Aside from the fact that the second will have no context and make no sense, the first is great! It's the third you can skip, 'cause it's not really story related, or scary. More of a puzzle-based experiment.

Avatar image for xeirus
Posted By Xeirus

The guy that wrote that Diablo 3 article is a dumbass.

Just like every other game, you are not forced to use the auction house, ever. Complaining about them taking a cut from your transactions is like bitching about using ebay, if it pisses you off don't use it..... the crying is rather pathetic.

Avatar image for hells
Posted By Hells

Spelunky is one of the best Indie Games ever made!

Avatar image for iamjohn
Posted By iAmJohn

@Juno500 said:

Watch out for the bathtub scene in Eternal Darkness Patrick.

Dude, fuuuuuuuck that scene.

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